April 30, 2011

adventures in europe: hungary

in the spring of 2008 i spent 3 months living in florence, italy. as i am about to depart on another journey across the world in just 2 weeks, i have realized how much i wish i had started my blog before i lived in europe so that i could have shared those adventures with you as they happened. but since i can't go back in time, i'm now going to share my adventures in europe and the moments that forever changed my life.

my faith grows the most when i step out of my comfort zone and live in a situation where i have to continually rely on GOD for my every need. europe was just such an experience. at the young age of 19 i boarded a plane to study in italy from january through april. i traveled by plane, train, and boat all throughout italy and europe. i along with my friends had 3 week-long periods where we could travel anywhere in europe that we wanted to completely by ourselves. and i learned so much about the world and so much about myself in that very short amount of time.

in almost every place that i traveled, i encountered an event or situation that completely changed my life. i found myself relying on GOD endlessly, and my prayer life grew to a constant conversation with the LORD. in the next few posts, i want to share those moments that changed me and the prayers that i offered that got my friends and me out of what seemed like impossible situations. i hope that these posts will increase your desire for adventure, your faith, and your prayer life, as it increases that of my own.

adventures in europe: hungary

i was traveling on an overnight train from venice to budapest with 5 of my girl friends. it was our very first journey without any older adult supervision, and we had butterflies in our stomachs as we boarded the train. we had purchased what we were told to be the right tickets, and we soon found our couchette which is a compartment made of seats and beds that fold out for 6 people. when we stepped into our couchette, we put our bags down, locked our door, and breathed a sign of relief as our first step of tackling 7 countries in 8 days was complete. but we were very soon to find out that our good fortune was not what it seemed.
around midnight, as the train was approaching the croatian border, the conductor of our train car came to our couchette. he was the most adorable, hungarian, old man that you could ever imagine. he didn't speak much english but was obviously delighted at the thought of protecting 6 little, american girls during a 13 hour train ride. he laughed and gave us a huge smile and asked to see our tickets. but as he examined our tickets, the laugh died and the smile faded, and the only words out of his mouth were, "big problem."

the ticket cashier back in florence had sold us the wrong tickets. the tickets we had purchased were only valid from venice to croatia, and our only options were to each pay a fee in order to stay on the train or to be kicked off of the train in croatia, one of the most dangerous and anti-american countries in europe, at midnight. so for 6 19-year-old girls, the choice was obviously to stay on the train, until we learned the cost: 50 euro a piece.

at that time, 50 euro in europe was equal to approximately 75 american dollars which is a large amount of cash for 6 girls to each happen to be carrying. but if together we didn't have 300 euro in cash on our hands, which is equal to about 450 dollars, we would immediately be kicked off the train. our old, adorable train conductor delivered the news sorrowfully and fearfully, realizing the danger that we could be in but being able to do nothing to help us.

so i started praying like you wouldn't believe. we all started praying as we opened our wallets and bags looking for any cash that we could find. and by the grace of GOD we found exactly 300 euro. we paid our conductor, and he hugged us with joy as he realized the blessing from GOD that had just occurred.

but as if that wasn't enough, we now had no extra money to eat and wouldn't have any cash again until we got off the train and found an atm. but in the morning our wonderful train conductor, realizing that we had nothing to eat, brought us each a complete breakfast, probably which was covered with money from his own pocket. he watched over us and took care of us throughout our 13 hour train ride, making sure we had everything we needed and making sure that no one dared to disturb our couchette. and as we were about to leave, he taught us two words: köszönöm szépen, "thank you" in hungarian.

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